What Agriculture Under Secretary Concannon calls a win-win situation, is taking root in rural Alabama with help from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and state officials. Local farmers’ markets are getting authorized to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards which will allow them to expand their customer base and offer Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants healthy and local produce.
With federal grant money provided to states through September 30, 2013, eligible farmers’ markets and now direct marketing farmers are receiving free wireless point-of-sale (POS) devices. As part of the Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) StrikeForce efforts to reach out to communities in persistent poverty stricken areas, its Southeast Regional Office recently offered three farmers’ market sign-up days in Madison, Selma, and Robertsdale, Alabama.
Sign-up days were a collaborative effort between FNS, the Alabama Farmers Market Authority and the Alabama Department of Human Resources, with a primary goal to serve as a one-stop shop for farmers in StrikeForce counties. FNS staff was on hand to provide one-on-one assistance to farmers with electronic applications. FNS approved markets, and EBT providers approved applications for POS devices onsite.
We’re pleased to report that efforts resulted in 40 farmers now authorized and plus seven pending to accept SNAP EBT. Alabama will soon have more than 100 farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers that accept SNAP EBT. That means much more access to fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP clients in the State. Before, Alabama had 60 SNAP EBT approved farmers markets and direct marketing farmers—that’s a 70 percent increase!
All of the markets hope to have their devices in a few weeks so they can begin accepting SNAP benefits. The list of authorized farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers will be shared with the Alabama Department of Human Resources’ county office directors to help spread the word to Alabama SNAP participants of the new locations they’ll have to purchase fresh produce.